I’d always enjoyed drawing and painting, but Mr. Duke’s body was a canvas like no other…
But he wasn’t my only canvas. Rhys Straud, Hamlet Richardson, my cousin Ophelia…I enjoyed working on them too, and all three of them usually had more to say than Mr. Duke.
Galatea Lockwood took longer to open up, but I could always tell when she had something on her mind. I noticed that she preferred to tell me things on her own time rather than bothering with “pointless small talk” first.
“Guys are such fucking idiots,” she said. “But you’d know that already, after putting makeup on Rhys a couple times.”
“I don’t understand them sometimes,” I admitted. Or maybe it was just Mr. Duke I didn’t understand… How could he want to spend so much time with me, and touch me so much, but refuse any invitations to visit the RV? “But that’s probably my own fault.”
“Bullshit. I bet you’ve never made a move on a guy and fallen flat on your ass–like you think he’s into you, but it’s like some signals got crossed and he acts all disgusted when you get a little handsy.”
She rolled her eyes, but I could tell this subject meant more to her than she let on. “I mean, he basically watched me grow up, so maybe it’s that if it’s not my shitty personality, but I’m pretty sure he checked out my tits once or twice when I was a teenager, so…” She sighed. “Forget it, it’s not like you can relate.”
Wasn’t that what it was with Mr. Duke too? Forever seeing me as the child I hadn’t been for so long… “I know exactly what that’s like,” I said sadly.
“I don’t buy it,” she scoffed. “Like any guy would turn you down unless they’re gay–you didn’t try Hamlet Richardson, did you? Nice guy, but he’s been out for years. Or Rhys, but he’s in love with his own reflection.”
“No,” I whispered. “Mr. Duke.” Twice now…or was it more than that?
“The half-naked cat guy? I don’t like his face.”
“I do.” I thought about his face a lot…and his weasel.
“Well…good luck,” she said, after I’d finished with her makeup. “You’re a real Disney princess type, and they always get their happy endings.”
Talking to Galatea like that reminded me of all the kinds of talks I’d wanted to have with Dru but couldn’t. I loved my twin, but she never would’ve understood–I could hear her offering to punch Mr. Duke even now.
Dru. When was the last time I’d seen her outside of work? She used to come over all the time, but lately… I thought maybe she made friends at work, or found a hobby she enjoyed more than protecting me from Mr. Duke.
Was she mad at me? She hadn’t warned me about Mr. Duke in ages…
She didn’t answer the door when I knocked, but I had a key to her apartment. I hadn’t seen her at the studio these past couple days, and depending on Rhys Straud’s schedule, I might not see her at all…
That was strange. A flower arrangement, and not one of the ones available from Mr. Duke’s flower shop… (I was almost an expert by now.)
I found her in her bedroom, staring out the window.
“There you are, Dru,” I said, keeping my voice light.
She didn’t look up. “I wonder if it means something…”
“What means something?”
“The flower.” She nodded toward an empty vase on her bedside table.
“Dru…” She had terrible dark circles under her eyes. Was this some kind of vampire illness I didn’t know about? Mom said Dad had a lot of things wrong with him, but that they had nothing to do with him being a vampire. I sat down on the bed beside her. “Is something wrong?”
“Sunflower. I have to find Sunflower.”
“Your sunflowers are in the other room, Dru…” I tried to smile at her.
She finally turned toward me, just a little. “Do you remember those dreams, from when we were kids? The blue guys with wings, surrounded by flowers and butterflies… I was so scared one of them would take you away.”
Childhood dreams… Dreams were as delicate as lace, fading and fraying with time, and never completely whole. More than anything, I remembered the vivid colors and the scent of flowers I’d never encountered before or since.
“That was such a long time ago,” I said.
“The creepy blue guy who smiled all the time…I think–I think I wasn’t just scared for you, Lyanna. I think I was jealous, because…because I didn’t want him to love you more. Everybody already loved you more, and you had Mr. Landon, and I just wanted one person in the whole world to decide I was their favorite. Just one.”
I let my fingertips brush against her shaggy hair. “But you’re my twin. You’ll always be my favorite. Always.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think this was what Mom was talking about…” She looked at me, giving me a small, nervous smile. “I wanna find Sunflower, and when I do, I wanna keep him, even if he was really meant for you. Is that okay?”
She looked so tired, but so determined too. I didn’t really understand, and I wanted to call Mom and talk to her, but… My sister had never let me down. I trusted her, even if we had trouble understanding each other sometimes.
“Of course,” I whispered. Maybe it was just the air conditioning, since Dru liked it icy in her apartment, but I felt a breeze caress my ear. “Sunflower was always meant for you, I think.”
They seemed to be the words she needed to hear, because she immediately relaxed. “I think Mr. Landon was in the dreams too,” she said. “And I think he was meant for you, if he was meant for anybody at all. He kind of pisses me off.”
I laughed at that. It was the closest I’d ever gotten to “girl talk” with my twin. “How about a haircut? I think you’re overdue…”
I made Dru get dressed before taking her over to the RV, setting her up in our usual haircut spot.
She was squirmy from the start, as always, but I was surprised when she had a request this time. “I saw myself in a dream,” she said. “Not my real self, but who I could’ve been, I guess. It was weird. And only a little bit girly, got it?”
She tried to explain what she wanted…and I didn’t always understand my sister, but I understood hair.
“There,” I said afterward. “I think it suits you.”
I’d have to something about the dark circles later…but her fanged smile brightened her whole face anyway.
Whoever or whatever this Sunflower was, I hope he made her smile just as much.